Richie Stevens Bristol preview

BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 29) -- The NHRA's version of a summer break takes the all-stars of the circuit to the second annual Winston "No Bull" Showdown July 7-9 at Bristol Dragway. The special non-points race is best known for pitting Top Fuel...

BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 29) -- The NHRA's version of a summer break takes the all-stars of the circuit to the second annual Winston "No Bull" Showdown July 7-9 at Bristol Dragway. The special non-points race is best known for pitting Top Fuel dragsters against Funny Cars in a $200,000 winner-take-all format. But the sport's top Pro Stock, Pro Stock Bike, and Pro Stock Truck drivers will also be battling for large cash prizes in their respective categories. It's the most action-packed race weekend of the year.

One of Pro Stock's hottest drivers, 21-year-old Richie "The Kid" Stevens of New Orleans, will be a part of the festivities for the second year in a row, having earned a berth in the exclusive field by virtue of his win in Englishtown, N.J., in mid-May, 1999.

Stevens should have no trouble making some noise at the historic track, which is better known as "Thunder Valley." He won the first Pro Stock race of his professional career there in 1996 when he was just 17, conquering the field of the IHRA Spring Nationals.

"I have great memories of that track," Stevens said. "They say you never forget your first win and for me it happened in Bristol. It's a nice confidence boost to go to a track where you've won before. You know in your mind that you have what it takes to win it all. That has to help on race day. Plus, there are a bunch of crazy fans there that always cheer for us. I guess they remember that win in 1996.

"At the same time, one of my lowest days of racing happened in Bristol too. I lost in the first round there in 1997 and it knocked me out of the IHRA championship points chase. So I guess I've seen it all at that track. I still rank it as one of my all-time favorite places."

There are 10 drivers that have pre-qualified for the Pro Stock elimination-day field. Six more at-large spots will be open to all challengers who wish to battle for the $50,000 top prize. A regular 16-car field will be set for race day. Stevens anchors the group that is assured of a spot. Still, he has to earn his starting position on the elimination ladder.

"I've been looking at Jet Skis lately," Stevens said. "I think dad might go out and buy me one if I win this race. It would be great for the team to win $50,000. That's the biggest Pro Stock payday of the year up for grabs. It would almost be like winning the Winston championship. Of course, that adds a lot of pressure to the race also. I'm going to need to be perfect every round because every time you win on Sunday it means more money for the team and we could sure use it right now."

Qualifying highlights for the second annual Winston "No Bull" Showdown will air from 10 p.m. to midnight (ET), Saturday, July 8, on ESPN2. The elimination rounds will be shown from 9:30-11:30 p.m. (ET), Sunday, July 9, also on ESPN2.

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